Horror Comics

‘BrightBurn’ Trailer Brings Terror to Superman Mythology

What if a baby from another world, despite the best efforts of his adopted parents, turned out to be a little twisted?  This is the premise of BrightBurn, a horror film produced by James Gunn and written by Mark Gunn and Brian Gunn. Frequent James Gunn collaborator David Yarovesky (The Hive) will direct the film which stars Elizabeth Banks, Jackson A. Dunn, David Denman, Gregory Allen Williams, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, and Steve Agee.

The former director of Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn actually started his career in the horror genre with 2006’s Slither.  He also explored odd super heroes in 2010’s Super, so Gunn is no stranger to either genre, and his role as producer is sure to rub off on his brother (Brian) and cousin (Mark), as well as Yarovesky. read more

‘Heavy Metal’ Magazine Documentary in Development at Fox Digital

Fox Digital Studio, Heavy Metal Media, and 4th Row Films are currently developing a feature film documentary about the history and influence of the quintessential sci-fi/horror/ fantasy comic magazine Heavy Metal according to an exclusive report from Variety.  

Director Douglas Tirola is attached to the film, making it the second time that the director has worked on a documentary based on a magazine, the first being The National Lampoon documentary entitled Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead. 

Steven Johnson, Fox Digital’s VP of Production, praised the project, stating that “We are very interested in making pop-culture docs and horror/sci-fi content at FDS. Heavy Metal is the perfect fit; it was a tremendous influence on so many great artists and filmmakers of the genre, and Douglas has a vision that’s going to deliver something really unique.” read more

‘Preacher’ Renewed by AMC for Fourth Season

Preacher fans prayers have been answered, as AMC just announced that the series based on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s classic Vertigo Comics series will begin production on their fourth season at the start of the new year in Australia, according to Deadline.

David Madden, the President of Programming, Entertainment Networks for AMC praised the show’s originality, saying that “Preacher is a show unlike any other on television” and one that has “A passionate base of fans found their way to Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy and have followed along with their adventures, at times indescribable adventures, for three seasons. We are thankful to our partners at Sony and to Seth, Evan and Sam for everything they have brought to this series, which we are pleased to renew for a fourth season. Like the superfans of Preacher, we can’t wait to see where this journey leads next.”

Preacher stars Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joseph Gilgun, Ian Coletti, Graham McTavish, Pip Torrens, Julie Ann Emery, Malcolm Barrett, Betty Buckley and Colin Cunningham.

For those who missed any (or all) of season 3, the blu-ray, dvd, and digital versions of the series were released earlier this month.

Stay tuned for further updates on the further adventures of Jesse, Tulip, Cassidy, and the rest of the players, right here at Horror News Network.

 

Vertigo’s ‘Hex Wives’ Writer Ben Blacker: The Horror News Network Interview

For many horror comic fans that came of age in the late 1980s and continued to read and collect comic books into the 90s, Vertigo was their publisher of choice.  With titles such as Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and Garth Ennis’ Hellblazer, Vertigo was the place to go for mature, literary horror comics.

This past year, Vertigo has started to go back to their roots with a number of horror and supernatural titles, such as Ben Blacker, Mirka Andolfo, and Marissa Louise’s Hex Wives.  Writer Ben Blacker was able to pull himself away from his cauldron to engage in a lengthy interview about the new series and the ever topical subject of witches.

Horror News Network: Where did the idea for Hex Wives come from?

Ben Blacker: Hex Wives is the confluence of two ideas I’d been tinkering with in the back of my brain for years, while my writing partner and I were working on a few other projects. Maybe five years ago, I caught an episode of Bewitched on TV. I loved that series when I was a kid; when I’d see it in syndication when I stayed home sick from school. It was a typical episode—Samantha worries about getting dinner on the table for her husband who is bringing his boss home from work. Samantha’s mother, Endora, swings by to tell Samantha that she’s married below her. But this was the first time it struck me that Endora was right! Samantha is this super powerful witch who is “not allowed” by her husband to practice magic! That’s bonkers. Darren didn’t want his wife to be her complete self.

So, this was something chugging along in the back of my head. Meanwhile, I was having more frequent and honest conversations with my wife and my women friends about the way they were really treated at work, in relationships, etc. There were a lot more insidious and ingrained attempts to control women than I had realized. Ways of subjugating or minimizing women and their accomplishments seemed inherent to our patriarchal society.

It really came to a head leading up to the 2016 election when I saw both how people talked about Hillary Clinton and how others talked about the way Clinton was talked about. Never has someone so qualified run for this position and never has someone so unqualified won it. At its base, this came down to a question of the way women are considered and treated.

I learned so much about writing TV from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the lessons from Buffy is about having a central metaphor. When I put these ideas together—an exploration of witch tropes and a desire to write about gender politics—Hex Wives really took shape.

HNN: Your story displays witches across time and of course, starts with Salem.  Why is this historical setting so crucial to the opening of your tale?

Blacker: Hex Wives is, at heart, a love story between Isadora and Nadiya, two (basically) immortal witches. (They can die, but they get reborn as themselves). So, I wanted to give some scope to what I thought of as an epic romance. I wanted to give the impression that these two women were destined to be with each other. That, time and again, they’d find each other. That way, when the bad guys have their way and brainwash all of the witches, and Izzy and Nadiya know nothing of who they are or their past selves, it was really emotionally wrenching.

The other thing I was interested in was setting the boundaries of the book. Witches as a horror trope (and as historical figures) go all the way back to ancient Greece. So, by starting the book in Salem, Mass. (a place I visited often as a Boston-based elementary school kid) and referencing The Crucible (a book I taught a few times back when I use to teach 10th grade English), I was staking out that this would be about American witches (which was part of the initial conception of the book). That said, I’m finding myself going back even further in upcoming stories…

HNN: There are two nine panel scenes in the first two issues where Isadora is getting dressed in front of a mirror.  What is the significance of the mirror and her process in relation to your story?  

Blacker: That first nine-panel grid of Izzy in front of the mirror, getting ready for her day, was the very first image I thought of for this book, about four years ago, and it’s the one from which everything else sprung. There was something about seeing this woman in a private, intimate moment and knowing that she was doing this for someone else (her husband). For this character, putting on make-up, doing her hair, making herself “beautiful,” is all for him. I didn’t know why she was doing it, and it occurred to me that maybe she didn’t either. So, that kind of became the basis of the book. A suburban housewife who doesn’t know herself, doesn’t question her reality, who possesses this secret, even from herself.

I knew I would repeat that motif throughout the first arc and beyond. Mirrors are, of course, a loaded metaphor. Do you remember the ad campaign for Poltergeist II? Probably you don’t, because who would? But basically, it had a narrator saying “Some people are afraid of heights. Other people have a thing about mirrors…” and etc. I was a kid when that came out, and I remember asking my mom why people would be afraid of mirrors. She responded, in THE MOST TERRIFYING POSSIBLE RESPONSE, that people are afraid they’d look into the mirror and see someone who wasn’t them looking back. This fucked me up to this day! (Emanuela Lupacchino did a terrific take on this idea for the cover of Hex Wives #2).

So, without unpacking the entire metaphor of mirrors, I like how they function as an object of horror, a literalization of “knowing one’s self,” and as a tie to witch tropes (“Mirror, mirror on the wall,” and all of that). It was fun taking apart and re-assembling so many witch tropes—broomsticks are another one we tackle—in ways I haven’t necessarily seen in witch media.

HNN: How does Mirka Andolfo’s art help establish the tone of Hex Wives?   read more

New Photo Emerges of David Harbour in ‘Hellboy’

Our friends at Empire revealed a new photo of David Harbour as the titular character in the upcoming Hellboy movie. The still shows Hellboy seemingly preparing for battle as he moves through some sort of tunnel.

“It was always a case of, ‘When in doubt, go back to the source material.’ Some of the stuff is pretty sick,” director Neil Marshall tells Empire in the January 2019 issue. “More violent and more bloody. We weren’t making it with handcuffs on.”

Milla Jovovich will play opposite of Harbour in the role of Nimue the Blood Queen, an evil sorceress who wishes to wipe mankind off the face of the earth. Other cast members include Ian McShane as Trevor Bruttenholm, Daniel Dae Kim as Ben Daimio, Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan, and Penelope Mitchell as Ganeida.

The film is set to premiere on April 12, 2019. Keep it locked to Horror News Network for the latest on Hellboy.

Remembering Stan Lee’s Influence on the Horror Comic

Stan Lee’s influence on pop culture can not be understated.  The late writer made characters such as Spider-Man, Thor, and Iron Man household names and his fame and notoriety shot into the stratosphere thanks to the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008.  Millions of people of all ages who have never picked up a comic book, came accustomed to seeing Lee’s signature cameos in countless blockbusters and he remained one of the most recognizable celebrities in Hollywood due to this very reason.

Comic fans will of course remember Lee as the architect of the original Marvel Universe, who along with artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita Sr., and a host of other talented writers and artists, established Marvel Comics as the hip alternative to the stodgy original super hero universe located across town at the offices of DC Comics.  Heroes such as the Incredible Hulk and the “ever-lovin’-blue-eyed Thing” proved to readers that heroes didn’t need matinee idol looks to save the earth, and heroes who questioned their motivations and couldn’t get a date on Saturday night ala Peter Parker assured fans that their idols had some of the same problems they did.  Lee populated his universe with the now cliche “heroes with feet of clay” and not only outsold the “distinguished competition”, but also brought together a diverse, vibrant collection of characters that have stood the test of time. And while super hero fans mourn the passing of Lee at the age of 95, horror comic fans also owe the writer and editor a great deal of thanks for his contributions to the maligned sub-genre.

Before Lee became the guiding force behind Marvel Comics, Lee was at the helm of the company that would later transform into Marvel, called Atlas Comics.  Throughout the 1950s, Lee followed publisher Martin Goodman’s advice and emulated the hits of the competition, and in the early 50s the best selling comics were the over-the-top horror tales from EC Comics.  Lee followed suit with similar horror titles such as Astonishing, Menace, and  Strange Tales.  When horror comics became “public enemy number one” due to Frederic Wertham’s  fear-inducing book Seduction of the Innocent, publishers scrambled to distance themselves from the graphic horror of EC Comics and started the self-censoring organization, the Comics Code Authority.

With the absence of horror comics on the stands and super heroes in a slump, what was a publisher to do?  Lee instead turned to the atomic age giants of science fiction/horror and created an entire stable of titanic creatures that helped keep the lights on at Atlas Comics.  These would become the famous Lee-Kirby monsters such as  Gorgilla, Fin Fang Foom, The Glob, Mumba, Groot, Xemnu “the Hulk”, Elektro, Gargantus, It the Colossus, and Googam, Son of Goom among others.  These city crushing critters helped satiate horror comic fans hunger for content and served as a bridge to the later Marvel Universe (and many of these monsters would find themselves stomping around the same pages as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers in short order once Atlas was re-branded).

After changing pop culture in the 1960’s, Lee entered the 1970s as the Editor in Chief, as well as the new publisher of Marvel Comics, and this was when Lee exerted the most influence on the evolution of the horror comic.  In 1971, Lee took a page from Creepy publisher James Warren, and began producing a wide array of black and white comic magazines aimed at older readers.  These magazines followed in the tradition of the classic EC Comics and didn’t skimp on the gore, adult situations, or violence.  Since these were technically magazines, they were not governed by the CCA, and therefore could push the limits once again.  Horror fans have fond memories of titles such as Vampire Tales, Tales of the Zombie, Monsters Unleashed, The Haunt of Horror, as well as non-horror titles such as the seminal Conan series, The Savage Sword of Conan, and The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

Seeing the success of the horror magazines, Lee would soon usher in a new age of four color monsters, starting with Tomb of Dracula #1 in April of 1972.  After Tomb, the floodgates of horror opened, with the addition of The Monster of Frankenstein, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, Ghost Rider, and The Son Of Satan to the newsstand.  Seeing Dracula next to Spider-Man (and he also guest starred in Giant Size Spider-Man #1 in 1974) in the spinner racks of the era brought knowledge of the classic monsters to a whole new generation of fans and these issues  are still some of the most prized that were released during the disco decade (otherwise known as the Bronze Age of Comics).  These characters still grace the pages of Marvel Comics to this day and if not for the influence of Lee, may have been left to decay in the 1950s, along with EC Comics.

Fans will miss Lee for many reasons, but horror fans can thank “The Man” for keeping the monsters alive in Marvel Comics.

 

‘Swamp Thing’ Adds Kevin Durand as Floronic Man

Deadline is reporting that Kevin Durand is the latest actor to venture into the bog and join Swamp Thing. Durand will tackle the role of the Floronic Man, a creature that has the ability to mentally control plant life. In addition, the character can travel through the Green, create duplicates of himself and in dire situations, regenerate limbs.

Durand is known to horror fans as the character Vasiliy Fet in The Strain, and Carlos in 2004’s The Butterfly Effect. The actor also had memorable movie roles as The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Barry Burton in Resident Evil Retribution, and Paul Shields in Dark Was the Night. His TV credits include Stargate SG-1, Dark Angel, Touching Evil, and Lost.

The Floronic Man first appeared in The Flash #245 in November 1976 and has been a part of many highly visible comic book villain teams such as the Injustice Gang and the Secret Society of Super Villains.

Keep it locked to Horror News Network for more on Swamp Thing.

‘Alien 3 The Unproduced Screenplay’ #1: The Horror News Network Review

Alien 3, the sequel to James Cameron’s wildly successful and influential follow-up film to Ridley Scott’s Alien, entered theaters on May 22 of 1992 with great expectations.  To say that those expectations were unfulfilled would be an understatement.  First time director David Fincher (who would go on to make some of the greatest films of the past thirty years) did his best with material that he had, but countless re-writes, studio interference, and mismarketing doomed the picture and disappointed fans and critics alike.  

The mythology behind the film’s change in trajectory has taken on a life of its own since the film’s release, and the biggest mystery revolves around the scrapped initial screenplay by sci-fi legend William Gibson (Neuromancer).  Thankfully, over thirty years later, the script that Gibson wrote is finally seeing the light of day courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, and after reading the first issue (adapted by Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain) the only disappointment is the fact that Gibson’s screen play went unused.

Alien 3 The Unproduced Screenplay is a perfect follow-up to Cameron’s Aliens and picks up directly after the end of his film, with the survivors (Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and an eviscerated Bishop) headed home after the confrontation with the Mother Alien.  Gibson’s script and Christmas’ writing place us right back in the believable world previously established in Alien and Aliens, filled with corporate monsters who express no value for human lives in the face of profits and conquest.  The opening “shots” (panels) do this without the use of much dialogue and focus instead on computer screens, blue steel interiors, and automated announcements, again showing how Gibson’s story would have seamlessly continued the work of Scott and Cameron.

The new wrinkle in the story has to do with an international presence that has been hinted at, but not fully explored in the Alien universe in the form of the Union of Progressive Peoples (a nod to the cold war era when the script was produced).  Adding this element to the treachery of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (as well as their influence concerning the U.S. Colonial Marines), broadens the canvas of the story and introduces another formidable foe for the Weyland-Yutani Corp., as well as our crew of refugees.

Christmas’ art and Bonvillain’s colors carry much of the story and pacing, and many of the panels are without any dialogue, especially during the exploratory and action sequences, appearing like storyboards for a potential film.  When a discussion occurs between the Anchorpoint administrator and representatives of  the company, Christmas’ storytelling again takes over and the artwork is dialed down, to allow for the exposition and explanation to occur and fill the reader in on the complex dynamic between government, private, and public interests.

We get a quick glimpse of some of our favorite characters from the previous films, but they understandably take a back seat to the story-telling, allowing Christmas and Bonvillain to set up the new environment and problems that they will face.  Overall, the adaptation is a bitter-sweet reminder of what could have been, but also an exciting look at what would have been in a new medium with the care and attention that Gibson’s script requires.

Alien 3 The Unproduced Screenplay #1 goes on sale on Wednesday November 11 at finer comic book shops everywhere.

 

 

Vampirella Artist Buzz Discusses Elvira Variant Cover at Rhode Island Comic Con

Any fan of 70s horror comic staple Vampirella is familiar with the artist Buzz, the man who brought her back into the public consciousness in the 1990s, and inadvertently kicked off the ‘Bad Girl’ mania that swept through comic stores at the time.  So when it was announced that Buzz would be producing an exclusive Rhode Island Comic Con variant cover for Dynamite Entertainment’s new on-going Elvira Mistress of the Dark comic book, long-time fans knew that the company made the right decision with their choice of artist.

Horror News Network was able to catch up with Buzz at RICC and discussed the origins of the cover, his favorite monsters, and what the future has in store for the popular artist.

Horror News Network: How did you get involved in the creation of this exclusive Elvira Mistress of the Dark cover for RICC?  

Buzz: I’ve worked in the comic book industry for the last 30 years and I am well known to comic fans for my work with Vampirella, so when Dynamite asked me about doing a variant cover featuring Elvira, I thought it was a perfect fit.  Like Vampirella, Elvira is a classic character and I was excited to do it.

HNN: How did you approach illustrating Elvira?

Buzz: Elvira is not only sexy, but she is also silly, so I wanted to portray both sides in the piece.  When planning the piece, I became a kid again and started with the concept and then the breakdown stage and then the layout.  Working with a character like Elvira, you need to get a lot of approvals.  Once the image was done, it needed to be checked by Dynamite, the company that holds Elvira’s trademark, and of course, Elvira herself!

HNN: Not only did you get to draw Elvira, but you were also able to include a lot of classic monsters on the cover.

Buzz: Yes!  I tried to keep the monsters funny and whimsical to match Elvira’s personality.  When illustrating the classic monsters, you also have to be careful not to infringe on any trademarks that Universal holds.  If you look at the Frankenstein Monster, he doesn’t have any bolts, so instead Elvira is playing with the stitching in his neck.  With Dracula, I gave him a mustache and mischievous grin.  I also tried to give the Wolfman a Wile E. Coyote look, with Elvira scratching his head.  And of course the Mummy literally drops his jaw when he sees Elvira!

HNN:  Speaking of the Universal Monsters, who is your favorite?

Buzz: The Gill-man.  Unlike a lot of the other monsters, the Gill-man is a mystery.  No one knows where he came from or why he is there.  It is also the best costume, you can never tell where the suit begins or ends, and the look still holds up today.  You never have to worry about seeing where his zipper is.  It’s also a movie that gets better every time you watch it, especially the underwater and swimming scenes with Julie Adama.  I know some Creature fans didn’t like Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, and thought that he was ripping off the character, but people need to realize that the film was Del Toro’s love letter to the Gill-man.

I always liked him better than the other monsters.  Frankenstein always moved slow; basically a big zombie.  I’ll never understood why people get nervous about zombies.  If the zombies show up, just lock yourself in your house for a month and they will decompose and then you’re all set!  Dracula always had a  sense of humanity and often comes across as an anti-hero.  The Mummy…is the Mummy.  The Gill-man is just more unique and exciting.

HNN: What have you been working on besides the Elvira variant cover? 

Buzz: I’ve been working on a lot of covers.  I just did one for Live Wire from Valiant and three different Power Rangers covers for issue #30.  They all sold out and featured well-known homages to classic covers such as the first appearance of the Hobgoblin from Amazing Spider-Man #238, The Infinity Gauntlet, and Dragon Ball Z.

I also plan to work with Joe Benitez on an upcoming Lady Mechanika comic.  Both of us started around the same time in the industry, doing work-for-hire, and now we get to collaborate together on one of his creator-owned titles.   So look for that next year (and we may go the Kickstarter route with the project).

We are also quickly approaching the 50th anniversary of Vampirella and the 25th anniversary of her relaunch in the 90s, and my own 50th anniversary-birthday!  I am looking forward to being involved in the anniversary and drawing the character again.

 

Cullen Bunn Brings Horror Anthology ‘A Passage in Black’ to Kickstarter

The comic book  anthology has been synonymous with horror comics since the days of Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear.  While other genres have produced anthology collections, the horror anthology is still the one that most fans think of when the words “anthology” and “comic books” come up.  It is also the one that writer Cullen Bunn (a multiple time HNN Comic Award Winner, most recently for his Dark Horse series Harrow County) thinks of and is why the prolific writer is attempting to get his own anthology in comic stores everywhere via a kickstarter campaign.

Bunn’s A Passage in Black is a 120 page, black and white anthology featuring a number of artists and writers (besides Bunn) who love short horror fiction.   Bunn spoke to Horror News Network and shared his love for the classic art form, saying that “It’s no exaggeration to say that horror anthology comics and magazines made me the writer I am today. Books like Creepy and Eerie and Ghosts and House of Mystery and The Haunted Castle introduced me to the idea that comic books could be SCARY! And those books also introduced me to writers and artists, all working in bite-sized terror, who would become some of my favorite and most influential creators. My hope with a book like A Passage in Black is that readers will know the joy of horror comics, but will also find some new writers and artists to follow in the days to come. If I have my way, this will become an annual project!”

All of the stories are either written by Bunn or adapted from Bunn’s previous prose collection by fellow writers.  Bunn details the writer/artist teams and short stories in the video below. If you are interested in backing the project on kickstarter, please visit the official page here.  The campaign ends on November 8.